Dunn County planning: water, public outreach and criminal justice top initiatives

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Board has now identified environmental policy, public outreach, legislative policy and criminal justice policy as the top initiatives derived from directional planning.

The Dunn County Board discussed the initiatives at the April 14 meeting.

Now that the initiatives have been identified, the next step will be for committees and departments to form action plans to achieve the initiatives, said Jill Noreen, county board supervisor from Menomonie and chair of the committee on administration.

Environmental policy, the first of the four initiatives, will include an emphasis on water quantity and quality.

Dunn County has a large number of high capacity wells, said Bob Walter, county board supervisor from Menomonie and chair of the planning, resources and development committee.

Water quality and quantity is an important consideration for the county, he said.

In this part of the country, groundwater discharges to surface water, so if large quantities of ground water are pumped in a short period of time, the level of streams, rivers and lakes could be affected.

The state Department of Natural Resources has approved septic tank disposal sites that probably should not have been approved, Walter said.

Todd Welch, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said that while it is important to protect the environment, there also is a direct conflict between protecting the environment and private property rights.

Law schools in the western part of the United States have classes on water rights, said Walter, who is an attorney.

The question of who has water rights is more complicated than property rights, he said.

If water is pumped for a thousand miles, the question is, “whose water was it; whose water is it now; and who should it belong to?” Walter said.

“Out West, we encouraged crops on sand that need a lot of water. So who has the property rights?” he said.

Calvin Christianson, county board supervisor from Menomonie, noted that out West, water rights are sold separately from the property.

Water is only a portion of environmental policy, noted David Bartlett, county board supervisor from Boyceville.

The amount of time county board members spent discussing water and water rights seems to indicate that the county board, the departments and the committees have quite a lot of work to do concerning the initiatives, he said.

The Dunn County Board and the board’s standing committees been working on directional planning since last fall. The process is expected to take about a year.

Public

The two initiatives concerning public outreach and legislative policy are both related to the residents of Dunn County.

The second initiative deals with developing a public outreach and information policy that emphasizes sharing information with the public and sharing information among county departments.

The third initiative deals with legislative policy to identify, advocate and communicate the concerns to legislators of what is important to Dunn County and to the residents of Dunn County.

Criminal justice

The fourth initiative is to develop a collaborative and evidence-based criminal justice policy for the county.

Part of the initiative is designed to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Dunn County and to reduce the number of repeat offenders and repeated crimes.

Reducing the number of people incarcerated and reducing the number of crimes committed will reduce the costs associated with criminal behavior, said Steve Rasmussen, county board supervisor from Boyceville and chair of the Dunn County Board.

Criminal Justice Collaboration is part of the initiative, and the county has already made a substantial commitment to CJC. For example, Dunn County judges are ordering defendants to participate in drug treatment court at the time of sentencing.

Issue survey

The Dunn County Board has ranked the following issues from the most important to somewhat less important: environmental policy; public information; legislative program; health policy; rec park plan; supervisor education; Criminal Justice Collaboration; The Neighbors of Dunn County; demographics; broadband.

Other business

In other business, the Dunn County Board:

• Approved a resolution for the North Star Bicycle Festival professional bike race to be held on the roads of Dunn County June 20.

• Approved a rezone of 7.5 acres in the Town of Menomonie from Residential District 1 to Residential District 2 requested by Mark Johnson. R2 allows duplexes.

• Approved amending the code of ordinances to include additional ATV/UTV routes on 1070th Avenue in the Town of Tiffany and 860th Street in the Town of Sand Creek.

• Approved for a first reading amending the code of ordinances related to outside employment for county employees. The ordinance does not allow county employees to accept another job that will be incompatible with the performance of his or her official duties. The revision removes the stipulation that employees gain prior approval from a department head or committee before engaging in outside employment.

• Approved a resolution authorizing Dunn County to participate in the National Association of Counties Prescription, Health and Dental Discount plan. The plan helps uninsured or underinsured county residents and is free to the county. The prescription drug discount card is free for residents. The dental discount program and medical services program are each $6.95 per month or $69 per year for individuals, or $8.95 per month or $79 per year for families.

• Approved for a second reading revisions to the county’s smoking ordinance. The ordinance now includes e-cigarettes and includes smoking outside of county buildings, except in private vehicles, and includes the Dunn County Rec Park.

• Approved a resolution opposing changes proposed in the governor’s 2015-2017 budget to aging and disability recourse centers (ADRCs), family care, IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self Direct), and senior care. The governor is proposing a state-wide no-bid contract for the services.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the county to submit an application for a Community Development Block Grant for new SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) programs to serve people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, and have mental illness or a co-occuring substance abuse disorder.

• Approved a resolution asking the state legislature to restore increases for nursing homes to the reimbursement formula, remove reductions to Medicaid rates, and return the nursing home bed tax “skim” which amounts to $21 million.